O Lord, God great and to be feared, you keep the covenant and have kindness for those who love you and keep your commandments: we have sinned, we have done wrong, we have acted wickedly, we have betrayed your commandments and your ordinances and turned away from them. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, our ancestors, and to all the people of the land. Integrity, Lord, is yours; ours the look of shame we wear today, we, the people of Judah, the citizens of Jerusalem, the whole of Israel, near and far away, in every country to which you have dispersed us because of the treason we have committed against you. To us, Lord, the look of shame belongs, to our kings, our princes, our ancestors, because we have sinned against you. To the Lord our God mercy and pardon belong, because we have betrayed him, and have not listened to the voice of the Lord our God nor followed the laws he has given us through his servants the prophets.
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate. Do not judge, and you will not be judged yourselves; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned yourselves; grant pardon, and you will be pardoned. Give, and there will be gifts for you: a full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be poured into your lap; because the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given back.’
Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate
In today’s Gospel, we see Jesus giving the disciples a lesson in compassion. Do not judge, and you will not be judged… do not condemn, and you will not be condemned… grant pardon, and you will be pardoned. The teaching in today’s Gospel is not an uncommon one. As Christians, we are often taught of the merciful, all-embracing love of God – as evidenced in Christ Jesus – and how we are called to witness Christ to others by emulating that love.
The truth of the matter however is that it is difficult to be truly devoid of all judgment. Already, our value systems, culture and life experiences influence how we see or judge another. We are taught by our experiences to be shrewd and careful in our assessment of people and we are reluctant to differ from what our internal “programming” tells us. Our past experiences (especially the hurting ones) cements our views and provides evidence for our assessment of people (even those whom we may have only recently just met), making it difficult for us to not judge or condemn.
How then do we not judge or condemn? The key I think lies in “re-examining” and “unlearning”. It lies in challenging our internal stereotypes and looking closely at our personal experiences. Are we truly being fair and honest in our perception or assessment of others? Or are we building up walls and partitions subconsciously with our values and life experiences because of our instinctive desire to protect ourselves and to deal only with what is familiar? Are we holding on stubbornly to our own perceptions because it is easier to cope with than expanding our minds and extending compassion to another?
Compassion I think, means giving another person a chance to be accepted and understood. It is sometimes challenging and requires great patience and care on our part, especially when it comes to the people around us – friends and family members included. Yes, even people in our workplace. It is only when we remove the stubborn log in our eyes, can we truly understand the nature of the splinter that lies in our brother’s eyes.
What is our reward? Jesus assures us that when we give, whatever we give including the extent that we give, will be measured and given back to us. How will it be measured? The bible says “A full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over”. In the olden days, during Jesus’ time, if you were to buy something from the market (e.g.a bag of grain or flour), the shopowner will fill up the bag, press the contents down so that it’s very compact, shake it to get all of the air out, and then fill it again until the bag is running over. This is how a seller would reward a generous buyer – by giving him more than his money’s worth in the bag. We can rest assured therefore that the same compassion we extend to others is extended by God to us – abundantly.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Cassandra Cheong)
Prayer: Expand our minds lord and open our hearts that we may learn to extend compassion, to the people around us, especially those whom we may have difficulty loving.
Thanksgiving: We thank you Lord for your goodness, love and mercy in our lives. We thank you especially for those who have been compassionate towards us, especially in our time of need.